Former president Barack Obama speaks at the inaugural Obama Foundation Summit on Oct. 31, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois
Scott Olson—Getty Images
By Norman Pearlstine / New Delhi
December 1, 2017

Former President Barack Obama has warned that social media platforms can prompt people to “make snap judgements about complex decisions,” as his successor’s hair-trigger use of Twitter has come under fresh criticism.

Speaking in New Delhi, India at a conference sponsored by the Hindustan Times media group, Obama said “one of the dangers is that instead of deep analysis and evaluation,” users of Twitter and other platforms often are just “skimming the surface.”

Obama’s remarks came as President Donald Trump faces bitter recriminations from lawmakers in the U.K., including Prime Minister Theresa May, for retweeting anti-Islam videos by a British far-right group. The President’s use of Twitter to goad opponents and lambast critics has led both Democrats and Republicans to question his judgment.

In a pointed moment during the speech, Obama said he has more followers on Twitter “than some people who use it more often.” According to Twitter, @realDonaldTrump has 43.7 million followers, well less than half the 97.4 million followers on @BarackObama.

Obama has largely refrained from criticizing Trump while in office, though he would often take aim at his use of Twitter on the campaign trail. He took a subtle dig at the President’s social media habits in an April interview, when historian Doris Kearns Goodwin asked how he handled frustration while in office. “For starters, by not having a Twitter account,” he replied.

The former President said in the New Delhi speech he is concerned about how technology is changing the ways in which people consume information, warning that it is too easy “to retreat into our own bubbles.” He said that “those who watch Fox News and those who read The New York Times occupy different spaces,” adding that if he got all his information from Fox, “I wouldn’t vote for me.”

Obama praised those Americans and Indians who continue to show concern for the environment while fighting against climate change. And, again, without mentioning President Trump he called his successor’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement a “pause in American leadership.” He also noted other commonalities between India and the U.S., saying both countries were defined by their diversity.

Following Obama’s speech, he had lunch with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whom he praised for working to reform India’s bureaucracy. He also expressed fondness for former Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, noting his efforts to modernize India’s economy.

Obama came to India following a meeting earlier this week with President Xi Jinping in China.

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